Corona-virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is defined as illness caused by a novel corona-virus now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which was first identified amid an outbreak of respiratory illness cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. It was initially reported to the WHO on December 31, 2019. On January 30, 2020, the WHO declares the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declares COVID-19 a global pandemic, its first such designation since declaring H1N1 influenza a pandemic in 2009.
WHO regulations are legally binding agreement on all it’s members including India whereby all the member countries must make necessary measures- legislatively and institutionally to prepare for international public health risks.
Now through legal point of view, the Constitution of India under Article 245 specifies basis for division of powers between the Center and the states and under Article 246 explains distribution of law-making power between the Center and the states. According to Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India Public Order and Public Health comes under the State List, thereby, state governments have the authority to deal with issues relating to Public health and order but according to Entry 29 of the Concurrent List in Seventh Schedule center has more power than states to make a law and take certain actions in preventing the spreading of infectious diseases from one state to another. Therefore, Center has come up with national lock-down and it is implemented across the states.
National Disaster Management Act, 2005 is the key empowering provision for the lock-down to exist. The lock-down has been carried out by state governments and district authorities on the directions of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs under the said act. Under the Act, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and the National Executive Committee (NEA) was chaired by the Home Secretary. After being satisfied that COVID-19 is a pandemic as per WHO the National Disaster Management Authority headed by Prime Minister directed the Center and states to ensure social distancing as per section 6(2)(i) of the Act and the National Executive Committee headed by the Home Secretary directed the lock-down orders with specific details as per section 10(2)(l) of the Act.
The invoking of National Disaster Management Act has allowed the Union government to control the pandemic and to communicate seamlessly with the States. Government of India is taking all necessary steps to ensure that we are prepared well to face the challenge and threat posed by the growing pandemic of COVID-19.
In our country, disobedience to the rules set out by the government to control COVID-19 is punishable with Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code,1860. Under this section, whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant, disobeys the order, and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with an imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
Failure to take requisite precautions despite being aware of the possibility of the spread of such infection or disease is punishable under Sections 269 and 270 of the IPC.
Under Section 269, whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description up to six months or fine or with both fine and imprisonment.
Under Section 270, whoever malignantly does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Disobedience to quarantine rule is punishable under Section 271 of the IPC with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
Tough times never last, but tough people do. We should strictly follow the guidelines laid down by the government. We all need to understand the repercussion of not following the rules laid down by the government and the catastrophic effect on the whole country if we disregard the precautionary measures mandated by the State.
Advocate at High court of Delhi